Hidden Figures: Invisibility, Obscuring and Revealing in Pandemic Portraiture

Hidden Figures: Invisibility, Obscuring and Revealing in Pandemic Portraiture

Ms Diana-Andreea NovaceanuZoom

This paper examines how artworks depicting healthcare professionals created in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic challenge prior depictions, extending the margins of visibility and highlighting figures that, whilst vital to the medical establishment are often under-represented. During 2020, hash tags such as “#covidportrait” and “#alwaysremember” began trending on social media, as formal and informal collaborations between artists and essential workers resulted in an overabundance of depictions. Dozens of such portrait exhibits were curated globally both online and in local galleries and museums.
I will explore how projects such as “Women of Color on the Front Lines” (US) and “Portraits for NHS Heroes” (UK), along with other significant examples of pandemic portraiture provide a contextualization of the less than visible, “unremarkable” worker engaged in medical activity such as orderlies, hospital porters and chaplains. I will investigate how certain categories of nurses and physicians had been initially overlooked and how artistic activism tackles racial and gender disparities in medical practice. Particular attention will be paid to the construction of a relationship between artist and sitter through virtual chat sessions and the exchange of photographs. The discussion will conclude with an assessment of collaborative arts-medicine practices as a means to promote unacknowledged narratives.

University of Bucharest, Romania
Fri 14:30 - 16:00
COVID-19, Disability, Inequalities
Standard paper